Last weekend, I spent a lot of time pondering topics for this week’s article. Finally, as Ingrid and I finished up a very good dinner at a Chinese restaurant, I had a brainstorm: I’d listen to my fortune cookie. My fortune would give me the article topic.
Alcohol was not involved in this decision. Really. Desperation, perhaps, but not alcohol.
My fortune: If the shoe fits, it’s probably your size.
As for how that leads to an article — that’s not so obvious. But, with some thought…
I have been really overworked recently, with a lot of extra stuff going on both home and at work. As a result, I have not had much chance to actually play Magic. I have played one whole match of Zendikar so far. I have run two Zendikar events, but I have played one match.
I did win that match, though. Yay!
The shoe thing got me thinking about why I had run those tournaments, however. I mean, I was running a prerelease and a launch party. If I wasn’t wearing stripes (by the way, we need a new term for judging — no stripes anymore. The new judge shirt does have a planeswalker symbol on the back, so “wearing the fork?” But I digress…). The point was that I could have been playing. Why wasn’t I?
Why did the
clown shoes judge shoes fit, while the player shoes didn’t? I could have worn either.
Judging is a pretty thankless job. You are noticed, almost exclusively, when you screw up. The rest of the time, you have to be alert and working all the time. There are exceptions. Every once in a while, a player thanks you for judging. That really does help a long, hard day finish on a positive note. Those exceptions aside, though, judging is a lot of work.
For me, that is part of the appeal. I love playing, but I hate being bored. As a player, I really hate the wait between matches — especially long round turnaround times. Judging, at least as head or solo judge, means that you always have something to do.
I also know that the expected value of the event is better as a judge. I earned some packs for running the launch party. As both TO and only judge, I went home with more packs than any players – even summing their winnings and the sealed product they used to make their decks. Taking home packs, though, is not a prime motivator for me, though — I could always just buy packs.
Part of the appeal is being involved behind the scenes. Part is being good at judging and running events. Part is the sense of accomplishment when things go well.
Another reason is that, every so often, you have to avert potential disasters. I’ve had bad printers, leaky roofs, screwed up product, broken tables, fire drills and real fires, drunk players and on and on. These are all immediate problems, and the trick is to keep the tournament running smoothly, to the point that no one even knows what happened.
I realized that I had worked my way into a very similar position at the public TV auction. I’m in a position where, if I do everything right, the show just flows. My favorite parts of that job, though, are when we have disasters behind the scenes and we are scrambling like mad to avoid dead air. Now, I have never played Dance Dance Revolution while juggling flaming chainsaws and playing Mental Magic, but the day we had a city-wide power failure and had to rewrite the script, change the merchandise and keep all eight on-air personalities, the camera folks, the control room and 200 volunteers ready to go — all by flashlight — came close. It was “if we get power by 5:10, we go to B, then MC, then this. If not, we’ll pull B for the King board, kick A, move this sell…” It was the most insane, demanding hour I can ever remember, and I loved it.
In the interest of full disclosure — Ingrid and I work as a team at auction. We are co-managers, with Ingrid handling the warehouse, and me the set. We were both involved in the rewrites and juggling. The only difference was that my area had a bit more emergency lighting. Ingrid’s people really were working entirely by flashlight. At the end, we were both credited with “singlehandedly” saving auction that year.
It isn’t that judging really has many times like that — they are actually very few and far between. It’s just that judging is consistently, hour by hour, less boring that the dead times in a tournament. Sure, the final rounds, while you are in contention, and certainly a Top 8 are plenty stressful and exciting, at least while playing. However, to get there you have to endure the whole tournament, including the waits for rounds to start.
Those shoes don’t fit me so well anymore.
I do like to play, however. Most judges do. I love casual nights, because I can play continuously. No downtime, no waits.
I also like to play online, when I get time. Recently, I have had time to squeeze in a draft, here and there. I usually draft really early in the mornings, before work. At those times, I enter whichever queue is likely to fire first.
Did I mention I hate waiting?
Last week I drafted a fair amount of M10. I did pretty well. Those events were no-ticket, product-only events, and I think I ended up with a half-dozen more packs than I started with. In between rounds, I read StarCityGames.com articles, including the Drafting with Olivier series.
I noticed that we draft differently.
It isn’t just that he will be playing at the highest levels, while I will be standing there watching in a shirt with a fork on my back. It is more than that.
I noticed it most strongly one morning, reading an M10 draft where Olivier had drafted a bunch of Jackal Familiars and played a really fast Red deck. I actually played against a very similar deck, in the semifinals if I recall, and beat it easily. My decks tend to excel against those decks — but I can’t draft them at all well.
Our shoes are different sizes.
For me, and ideal deck is enough Horned Turtles to hold the ground, a collection of fliers, some counters, Pacifisms, and some Blinding Mages — and maybe splashing for a Pyroclasm or two. I overvalue Neck Snap and so forth, and undervalue two- and three-power speed guys. I favor old-style control shoes.
Other people prefer to blast out of the gate with running shoes made out of 2/2s for one and some removal. They work for them. I play against many of them, and they can certainly win drafts.
Still others love to draft five-color goodness decks — and not just in Alara block drafts. For me, five-color goodness decks are about as useful as nine-inch platform shoes with stiletto heels, but those decks work for them. (Okay — sometimes. Most of the time, I love getting paired against them.)
In drafting, different shoes fit different people.
To push the analogy, I have tried wearing other people’s shoes. I have drafted the other archetypes, and tried to draft by other people’s rules. With real shoes, doing this tends to give you blisters and sore feet. In drafts, it just gives you game losses.
Zendikar is a closet full of interesting shoes, but I’m just window-shopping so far. I think my initial interest will probably be combat boots. I need to prepare a few more basic Pauper decks for this Thursday, and soldiers looks like an easy Pauper deck to assemble. I’ll probably also build some simple curve-based aggro RG decks with burn and fatties, and UB with fliers and removal. I’m not sure if I can build an entire Pauper deck around vampires, but it is worth a try.
For my EDH decks, for Austin, I expect to look hard at the moldy dress shoes of the black bloodsuckers. I already have a fun EDH deck built around Baron Sengir. It looks to be getting a bunch of new
Vampires also looks good for Standard, but I really prefer my old Exalted decks. Those — what do exalted people wear, sandals? — fit better. If I can get the manabase to work, I’ll try reprising that deck. It’s not perfect, but I like it.
I’ll also probably try the clown shoes. I can see building a Warp World / Ob Nixilis deck. I like oddities. I’ll also be trying Luminarch Ascension in Enchantress, but since that requires Argothian Enchantress, that will have to be a Legacy deck, and I’m not sure it can survive outside of casual play.
Which doesn’t mean I won’t try.
I want to give my shoe analogies a kick at the competitive / casual debate, but that seems far too easy. I’ll just say that I don’t get the anger in the debate. It’s like the people who like blues arguing that the people who like classic rock are somehow wrong, or that the football is oval / round debate has a “correct” answer. [I’m pretty sure that footballs are round, mate… – Craig, amused.] People are different, they have different likes, and different play styles fit differently. It’s all good.
Even Unhinged — although Unhinged is one pair of shoes that just doesn’t fit me.
“one million words” on MTGO